But the federal budget is much different now than it was then. The government isn’t really in the housing business anymore, so it becomes a challenge for Christopher Community, the housing corporation that was developed by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Syracuse, to find the sources of money that it needs to develop a new project.
Whether there has been a change in professional philosophy or whether the money is just not available, Byrne said, “there are no longer facilities being built for inpatient treatment of individuals who have mental health conditions.”
Such projects in the past involved dealing with one state agency. In the Riverview case, four agencies are involved. “This is probably the model going forward in the future,” Byrne said. “We will be dealing with several different funding sources in order to get the money that’s needed.”
For example, Byrne noted that Riverview’s collaborators include the Community Preservation Corporation, Enterprise Community Investment, Inc., the state Office of Mental Health, and New York State Homes & Community Renewal.
“And their legal and financial people are incredibly smart and incredibly skilled,” Byrne said. It took a while to put the pieces together, he said, but “those professionals made it happen very-very quickly.”
Byrne thinks of Riverview as an Office of Mental Health project because, No. 1, OMH is providing $3.5 million in financing and, No. 2, OMH is committing for the next 30 years to subsidize the rent for the OMH clients of the 39-unit project. Twenty of the units are earmarked at least initially for OMH clients. In addition, Byrne said, the first priority will be OMH clients who are veterans.
Perhaps the veterans served in Afghanistan or Iran and they now have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and are homeless. “So here’s a project which has those 20 beds specifically earmarked for them,” Byrne said.
Also, OMH is committed to paying a rent subsidy for each of those clients for the next 30 years, and the agency has also agreed to pay a subsidy for mental-health services to those 20 clients.
“So OMH is making a real, real serious commitment to people from this state who suffer from mentally handicapping conditions,” Byrne said. The idea is to get them into clean, safe, affordable housing “where they can treated with dignity and live out their lives with dignity.”
The state’s commitment to the project is not just good from an altruistic standpoint, Byrne said; he also sees the practical benefits.
He noted that very often, people with low incomes or individuals with mentally handicapping conditions don’t have a personal physician. So when they need medical assistance, they go to the emergency room at a local hospital. But that is very expensive.

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